2–5 September 2025
P&J Live, Aberdeen, Scotland

The Rise of Citizen Science and How Everyone Can Contribute to Ocean Research

The ocean, covering over 70% of the planet's surface, holds countless mysteries and is vital for the health of our entire ecosystem. Yet, its vastness presents a significant challenge for scientists. They simply cannot be everywhere at once, and traditional methods of collecting data across these immense areas are expensive and time-consuming.

Here's where citizen science steps in, offering a powerful tool to revolutionise ocean research.

Making Sense of Ocean Citizen Science

Citizen science, also known as participatory science, involves the public actively engaging in scientific research. Citizen science allows the public to participate in scientific projects, contributing valuable data and observations.

In the context of our oceans, this takes many forms. Beachgoers can become pollution detectives, recording debris and plastic levels. Kayak enthusiasts can document sightings of dolphins and whales. And even from the comfort of their homes, people can classify underwater photographs or analyse complex datasets.

This collective effort by citizen scientists is not only enriching our understanding of the ocean but also empowering individuals to become active participants in its conservation.

How do Citizen Scientists Contribute to Ocean Research?

The impact of citizen science on ocean research is undeniable. By creating a vast network of observers, citizen science projects significantly increase the amount of data collected. This allows scientists to paint a more detailed picture of ocean health, from the abundance and diversity of marine life to the presence of pollutants and the impact of climate change.

Early detection of environmental threats becomes possible as citizen scientists report unusual occurrences, like changes in water clarity or sightings of invasive species. Additionally, citizen science projects often provide long-term data sets, which are crucial for analysing trends and identifying long-term changes in the ocean ecosystem.

Why You Should Get Involved in Ocean Citizen Science

The benefits of citizen science extend far beyond simply gathering data. Here are some key ways citizen science empowers individuals and contributes to ocean conservation:

Empowering the Public

Citizen science fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility for the ocean. By actively participating in research, individuals gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our marine ecosystems and feel empowered to take action.

Educational Opportunities

Citizen science projects often come with educational resources and training modules. This allows participants to learn about marine biology, ecology, and the scientific process, fostering a lifelong appreciation for the ocean.

Building Community

Citizen science projects can connect individuals with a shared interest in the ocean. Online forums and local events facilitate communication and collaboration, creating a sense of community and fostering a network of ocean stewards.

Informing Policy Decisions

The data collected through citizen science projects can be incredibly valuable for policymakers. By providing large-scale data sets, citizen science can inform the development of effective policies aimed at protecting the ocean.

Ocean Citizen Science In Action

Here are some examples of how citizen science is making a real difference in ocean research:

  • Monitoring Marine Life: Projects like REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) train volunteers to conduct underwater surveys, recording data on fish populations and coral reef health. This information is crucial for understanding the impact of climate change and pollution on marine ecosystems.
  • Tracking Marine Debris: The Marine Debris Tracker app allows users to document and report plastic pollution they encounter on beaches or waterways. This data helps scientists track the sources and distribution of plastic pollution, informing strategies to combat this growing problem.
  • Classifying Ocean Features: Zooniverse's Seafloor Explorer enlists volunteers in analysing underwater photographs to identify different types of marine life and seabed features. This project helps researchers map the ocean floor and understand the distribution of biodiversity across vast areas.

How to Get Started on Your Citizen Scientist Journey?

Citizen science offers a unique opportunity for anyone, regardless of scientific background, to contribute to the well-being of our oceans. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • Find a Project: Numerous online platforms like SciStarter and Zooniverse list various citizen science projects, allowing you to find one that aligns with your interests and skill set.
  • Download an App: Many citizen science projects have user-friendly mobile apps that make data collection convenient and accessible.
  • Participate in Local Events: Beach cleanups, community science days, and educational workshops are excellent ways to get involved and contribute to local ocean conservation efforts.
  • Spread Awareness: Talk to your friends and family about citizen science and encourage them to participate. The more people involved, the greater the impact on ocean research and conservation.

The rise of citizen science represents a paradigm shift in ocean research. By harnessing the collective power of the public, we can unlock the secrets of the ocean, address pressing environmental challenges, and ensure a healthy future for this vital ecosystem. So, why not join the movement? With a little curiosity and a willingness to contribute, you can become a citizen scientist and play a vital role in protecting the wonders of the ocean.

Images from SPE Offshore Europe 2023 are available for download: SPE Offshore Europe | Flickr
Issued on behalf of SPE Offshore Europe 2025 by BIG Partnership. Jackie Heddle, T: +44 (0) 7711 281915. E: [email protected]

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